Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: The Devlin Diary

The Devlin Diary
By Christi Phillips
Publication date: April 14, 2009


London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II's court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city's poor. But Hannah has a special knowledge that Secretary of State Lord Arlington desperately needs. At the king's Machiavellian court, Hannah attracts the attention of two men, charming courtier Ralph Montagu and anatomist Dr. Edward Strathern, as well as the attention of the powerful College of Physicians, which views her work as criminal. When two influential courtiers are found brutally murdered, their bodies inscribed with arcane symbols, Hannah is drawn into a dangerous investigation by Dr. Strathern, who believes the murders conceal a far-reaching conspiracy that may include Hannah's late father and the king himself. 

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan's dream come true -- until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor's unsolved murder is a seventeenth century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king's mistress. With help from the eclectic collections of Cambridge's renowned libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London's dark past and Cambridge's equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today....
My review:

Hannah Devlin is a fascinating character. An early female doctor in a time when women weren't allowed to practice medicine, Hannah is seen as an anomaly. She is forced to provide discreet medical treatment to a mistress of King Charles II or she'll face imprisonment for practicing medicine without a license. Hannah is an incredibly intelligent and brave young woman. She is a widow and the sole source of support for her mother since her father was murdered the year before. I admired Hannah's courage and intellect. She has to be tough when dealing with the prejudices and politics of court life. Hannah is also the character that is most developed in the story. The modern characters were far less interesting and I found myself wishing that the chapters set in 2008 would go by quickly so I could find out what was happening with Hannah. I liked Claire Donovan at first but I started to feel that her romantic hopes for a relationship with Dr. Kent got in the way of the story.

I love historical fiction and the combination of history, romance, and suspense with the serial killer made this a mostly enjoyable read. I even found myself comparing it favorably to the works of Dan Brown and Lauren Willig. While I am not a fan of Dan Brown's books, I did like the way he fused a historical mystery into his modern plots. Like The Devlin Diary, Lauren Willig's books include historical romance and suspense as well as a modern heroine who is a historian. I liked that there were a lot of historical details about 17th century life, particularly medical practice and social customs. I also enjoyed the historical romance but my favorite part was the suspense.

There were a few minor flaws. One was the disappointing resolution of the mystery surrounding the death of Claire's colleague. The other was the inclusion of too many minor characters and the use of too many points of view in the story. It makes sense to have chapters from the point of view of the main characters and the killer but not some of the others such as Ravenscroft.  I think the book would have been much better if there was a little more focus. Then some of the other characters could have been more well developed and we could see a little more of the important historical figures. Still, I loved the parts of the book that centered around Hannah and I think she would make an interesting protagonist for future historical fiction novels. I would suggest The Devlin Diary to those who enjoy detailed historical fiction and historical mystery.

Readalikes: Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, Fiona Buckley's Ursula Blanchard mysteries, Philippa Gregory, Karen Harper, Diana Gabaldon

I received a copy of this book from Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review

Here are some of the other blogs on this blog tour:


Just One More Paragraph

Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks

Books Like Breathing

Chrissy's World of Books

See Michelle Read


  1. Thanks for the informative review!! I like your 'readalikes' feature. I like Willig so I think this might be something I would like!

  2. History and mystery? Sounds like one I should look in to. Thanks for the great review :)

  3. Great review! Your readalikes feature is really helpful. :)

    From the Shadows


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